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From student to collaborator: HyeonJin Yoon

by Julia Comnes '16 (journalism)

When HyeonJin Yoon was a teacher for struggling students in her native South Korea, she was faced with a problem: how could her school’s one-size-fits-all curriculum, designed for a single style of learning, possibly accommodate all of her student’s unique learning needs? She wanted to know how to figure out what a student’s particular needs were and the best way to teach for each of those needs.

“I was thinking about what the instruction should be with these different kids, with these different types of learning,” HyeonJin says.

She decided the best way to learn more about this was through conducting research, so she started looking into doctoral programs. A friend of hers from South Korea, who had just finished a PhD program in America, directed her to the University of Oregon website. Yoon discovered that the UO College of Education’s research projects were a good fit for her area of interest, so she decided to apply.

Yoon is now in her third year of her doctoral program at UO. She also serves as the PhD student liaison, and plays for the school’s softball team. For her degree, she’s researching reading comprehension with Gina Biancarosa, an associate professor in the college’s educational methodology, policy, and leadership department, and Sarah Carson at the Center on Teaching and Learning.

“HyeonJin is profoundly intellectually curious, dedicated, enthusiastic, and thorough as a student,” says Gina of HyeonJin. “Her passion is truly infectious.”

She adds that HyeonJin has been “involved in almost every aspect of the project” that they are working on together.

Currently, HyeonJin and her fellow researchers are using quantitative research methods to develop reading comprehension measurements for third to fifth grade students. Their measurements go beyond assessing whether the readers are good or poor comprehenders, also examining what reading comprehension methods the students use use, and what kinds of intervention, or teaching methods, will work for their specific reading problems.

HyeonJin isn’t sure how much longer she’ll be at the UO, but has enjoyed her time at the College of Education.

“People are really nice, and they collaborate, and they take care of each other very much,” she says. “People are really genuine. And they have really genuine interest in their peers, and fellow students’ research.”

She notes that this welcoming environment contrasts with the more competitive atmosphere at schools in South Korea.

“I feel really fortunate,” she says.